Health Care Reform Details

November 22nd, 2009

By Tom Carter

health_care_comparisonThe Washington Post has published a good interactive graph that compares the costs and features of the House and Senate health care reform bills (click the image). 

You’ll find a lot of things that bring up questions.  At the most comprehensive level, reconciling the differences between these bills in a House-Senate conference committee will be very difficult.  And that’s assuming the Senate even passes its bill, which barely survived yesterday’s vote to bring it to the floor for debate.  If reconciliation subsequently moves the Senate bill closer to the House version, the Senate may not pass it on a final vote, and vice versa.

There are a lot of specific questions, too. 

wimpyFor example, an offset to the total cost of the bills is “subtract savings on Medicare/Medicaid/other.”  If savings can be made on Medicare, Medicaid, and “other,” why hasn’t that already been done to reduce health care costs?  As far as I know, nothing in the two bills makes these reductions easier.  The fact is, it will depend on action by Congress after a health care reform bill is passed.  As Wimpy said about the hamburger….

According to the Post’s graph, it’s estimated that there will be 54 million uninsured people by 2019 if health care reform isn’t passed.  That has to be based on a projection from the estimated number of uninsured now.  However, that number is controversial.  Those who support current reform proposals say the number is big — about 47 million.  Those who oppose say the number is much smaller.  That alone should make us smell a rat. 

There are many other questions.  Will abortions be paid for with taxpayers’ money?  The House bill says specifically that it will not; the Senate bill doesn’t.  Will tax dollars be spent on health care for illegal immigrants?  Not clear.  Will there be a “public option?”  Yes, in both bills, but the specifics are very different and may be difficult to reconcile.  Are there mandates that penalize people who don’t buy “acceptable” health insurance?  Yes, in both bills, but very different.

This two-ring circus still has a long way to go before the finale.  It’s going to be fun to watch, but guard your wallets because the tent is full of pick-pockets.

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